Lewis Hamilton handed boost as W14 is ‘probably fantastic’

James Allison initially left the role of Mercedes technical director in 2021, in order to become the manufacturer's chief technical officer.

Ex-Formula 1 driver and Le Mans 24 Hours winner Stefan Johansson believes technical officer James Allison has been brought back into the team by Mercedes in a bid to widen the W14’s working window, with it currently being judged as “so narrow” by the Swede.

It was announced ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix that Allison would be swapping places with Mike Elliott within the Mercedes F1 setup, with Allison having actually left to become Mercedes’ chief technical officer in 2021.

It was deemed that Allison and Elliott were better suited to each other’s job, resulting in a straight swap between the two.

Elliott openly admitted that Allison’s skillset was better suited to the technical officer role, with him having been hugely influential in the Germans’ domination during the turbo-hybrid era.

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Things have dramatically changed since Allison left, though, with Mercedes having struggled since the introduction of the new aerodynamic regulations.

Mercedes’ biggest issue with the new regs has been their concept, with the ‘zero sidepods’ only working correctly within a very small window, something which has resulted in Lewis Hamilton’s and George Russell’s pace being inconsistent.

When the Germans concept works, it is very strong, as proven at last season’s Brazilian Grand Prix where they claimed a sensational 1-2.

It simply isn’t strong often enough, though, with Johansson therefore believing that Allison has been brought back to make the W14 perform in a wider window, with a new concept also set to be introduced at Imola.

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“Obviously, when they launched the zero pod concept last year, I’m sure they believed that they had the magic bullet before the testing started, but they very quickly found out that they had a very serious porpoising problem, which probably stopped them finding out exactly what other issues the car had, until much later into the season,” Johansson told PlanetF1.com.

“It does seem that, theoretically, the car is probably fantastic but the operating window seems to be so narrow that when they get it into that window where the car is happy and the drivers can actually get a good reading of the car, it’s right there, isn’t it?

“It’s fast, but to get it into that window seems incredibly difficult so I think that’s obviously one of the battles and maybe that’s just the nature of the beast with the design philosophy they chose to take.

“It’s way too difficult to get it into that window where it’s consistently right. That’s the impression I get.

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“Having a one, two finish in Brazil at the end of last year may also have contributed to them choosing to follow the same concept for 2023 also, rather than abandoning and instead doing a more conventional design concept.

“I think that’s probably one of the reasons why Allison’s coming back again because he obviously has a massive amount of experience and may have a better feel for what the whole package should be like, especially now when they are two years into the new rules package and there is enough information across the pitlane to see what works and what doesn’t.

“I suspect there may also have been a few hurt egos along the way. It’s very hard for any designer to let go of an idea that they feel is brilliant, which I am sure their current concept is in theory, but it just does not work consistently in practical terms. We’ve seen this from almost all of the most brilliant designer throughout the history of the sport at some point or another.”